On Monday, a team of scientists in Norway and the United States announced the discovery of "Predator X," a 50-foot-long, 45-ton ocean creature that scientists say ruled the seas some 147 million years ago. Paleontologists with University of Oslo's Natural History Museum unearthed the fossil remains of the four-flippered predator last year from beneath the permafrost on Svalbard, a cluster of islands above the Arctic Circle.
At the other end of the size scale, a pair of Canadian paleontologists reported on Tuesday the discovery of the smallest nonbird meat-eater yet found in North America. The 75-million-year-old fossil remains of the dinosaur, by some estimates roughly the size of a small chicken, were unearthed in 1982 from the Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta. But no one gave the specimen a serious look until 2007. The results appeared in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The find helps solve a longstanding riddle regarding dinosaurs in North America, the researchers explain. Such pint-sized predators have appeared in the fossil record in Europe, Asia, and the remains today of the once-supercontinent Gondwana. But they seemed to have bypassed North America. No longer.
These disparate discoveries highlight a revolution that has overtaken paleontology during the past 10 to 15 years, according to Jerry Harris, a paleontologist at Dixie State College in St. George, Utah.